Cool “Disco” Dan

Cool Disco Dan
Portrait by Eric B. Ricks

Any Washingtonian worth their salt will recognize Cool "Disco" Dan’s moniker. Beginning in the mid-80s, Dan’s graffiti spans several generations and schools of writing. His simplistic legible style can be considered a throwback in the sense that it was influenced by the earlier public name writing tradition, which preceded the rise of the graffiti art movement sparked by Subway Art and Style Wars.

Dan’s initial lack of connection with newer forms of graffiti enabled him to study and replicate the stylistic nuances of the "go-go" writers. The go-go writers were primarily based in the Southeast and Northeast quadrants of the city and followed the bands of DC’s homegrown go-go music scene.

These writers had never seen graffiti on a train, or witnessed the evolution that name writing experienced in NYC over the previous ten years. Instead, they were replicating name-writing forms that they had observed in their neighborhoods over that same span of time.

DAN was of the last generation of writers from DC’s south side that experienced and participated in the writing culture en masse. In the early '90s, he began meeting and painting with the post-Style Wars generation of writers who came from the suburbs of neighboring Maryland and Virginia. During that time he solidified himself as a king by going not only all-city in DC, but spreading his name up and down the east coast — as far as Boston and North Carolina.

He is a member of almost every notable crew DC has ever produced including: Gangsta Chronicles, MCA, ELW, HOA, KGB, NAA, EBO, Double Down Kings, and his own FFC and NTN crews. His reputation is such that his tags would remain undisturbed on walls for years. The documentary film by Roger Gastman titled The Legend of COOL "DISCO" DAN, further solidified DAN’s status as DC’s most iconic name writer.

Sadly, Dan passed away in 2017, his indelible mark left permanent in the culture of the city, with the Mayor honoring him with his own annual day of celebration on August 19th.